Seal’s Sense of 7
Before scoring his first hit with “Killer,” a track from the DJ Adamski he contributed to, Seal sang in local clubs and bars. That led him to later team up with producer Trevor Horn (Yes, Frankie Goes to Hollywood), who produced his 1991 self-titled debut, an album that delivered pop hits such as “Crazy” and “Future Love Paradise.” Seal’s follow-up album, Seal II, also became a success as the moody single “Kiss from a Rose” topped charts in both the UK and the US. Currently on the road in support of last year’s 7, an album that again unites him with Horn, Seal will play hits from his 20-plus-year career on the tour. He spoke to us via phone from Aspen.
You were great in Pop Star: Never Stop Stopping. What was the experience of being in the movie like?
It was fun. It’s not something you do every day. Those guys are great fun to work with. Any opportunity you get to laugh at yourself is one that you treasure.
Were those wolves that came after you in the film real?
Well, they did have real wolves on the set. When I was wrestling with the wolf, I’m not sure what it was. It was a beast of some sort. I had to wear a protective body suit underneath the suit that I was wearing. It wasn’t easy, but it was good fun.
At the beginning of your career, you started out singing in bars and clubs. What did you learn from that experience?
To be honest, I didn’t do a tremendous amount of that, but I learned that it was something I loved to do. You familiarize yourself with playing in front of different audiences. You can’t describe what it’s like to perform in front of people. It’s not something you can learn from a textbook. By failing and by performing in front of an audience that’s maybe not so impressed by what you’re doing you learn so much. You learn to appreciate it. You get a sense for what you like. I like intimate audiences a lot more. I describe my shows as being conversational. It’s like being on a date. You’re checking each other out and find out about the person and what makes them tick. You’re constantly trying to establish common ground or a point of empathy. You try to find an emotional access point.
You worked with Trevor Horn on your first album. How did you two first meet?
I had a hit in 1990 with “Killer.” I was an unsigned artist who had co-written and sang what was referred to in those day as a Pan-European No. 1. I didn’t have a record deal. He sought me out. I was courted by half a dozen record labels. He was the most keen to sign me. I was a huge fan of his without knowing I was a huge fan of his. A lot of the records he produced over the years were ones that I owned. Everything from Yes’ 90125 to Grace Jones’ Slave to the Rhythm and ABC’s Lexicon of Love. I was a big fan of all those records. I hadn’t made the connection that it was Trevor Horn producing them. When we met, we had an unspoken communication. We were fans of one another. In retrospect, it was not only the right home for me but the only home for me. I consider myself very fortunate to be working with him. He has been my mentor for the past 20 years. I cannot tell you how much I value that man’s presence in my life. He’s taught me so much.
You worked together again on 7. What brought you back together?
We were never really apart. Yeah, sure, I’ve done records with other people. He started being my A&R man and publisher and my producer. Even when I made records with David Foster and things like that, I was always very close to him on a social level, completely outside of music. Making this record seemed like a natural progression. We just thought it’s time to make a “Trevor Horn” [album]. The care and attention he puts into making records is just phenomenal.
The album seems like such a big production.
We both love music and draw from similar influences. I’m a huge Sinatra fan and a huge fan of the big band era. We share a common love of great musicians. When you hear great musicians play, it’s so different than when you hear a computer play, even though the technology is so advanced. The power – I wouldn’t change it. But when you hear a great horn player or great classic musician playing, there’s a soul in that. You’re not just hearing great playing. What you’re hearing is an audio picture of that person’s DNA and their soul. That’s the thing. When you have a 62-piece orchestra, you’re not just hearing the years and years of commitment and dedication to the instrument, but you’re hearing the DNA. Unfortunately, making that kind of record is becoming more and more difficult. We live in an age of copyright violation and thereby diminished returns. It’s not practical to make those kinds of records. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in the scheme of things. One just has to be more creative with technology. I love technology. I love the fact that I do preproduction for my album in my iPad. My iPad is like my studio. It’s ridiculous what you can do. It’s absurd really.
Talk about what the live show will be like.
What’s happened is that the songs as you hear them on the record aren’t done in the same way live. Technology has allowed us to, in essence, reproduce those songs and remix them live. I have someone working with me who’s been my studio engineer, Tim Weidner. We’re using technology tin such a way that we’re remixing in real time on stage. It’s like stripping things out and putting them back together again. Each night is different. There’s an acoustic segment, which I love because I play more. We mix in the old songs and it’s all very cool.
Upcoming 2016 Shows
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino – Hollywood, FL
Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL
Chastain Park Amphitheatre – Atlanta, GA
Peace Concert Hall – Greenville, SC
Warner Theatre – Washington, DC
Meijer Gardens – Grand Rapids, MI
Four Winds Casino Resort – New Buffalo, MI
Ravinia Festival – Highland Park, IL
Hard Rock Live – Northfield, OH
Meadow Brook – Rochester Hills, MI
Fallsview Casino Resort – Niagara Falls, ON
Fallsview Casino Resort – Niagara Falls, ON
Borgata Spa & Resort – Atlantic City, NJ